My Experience with Covid
Just when I thought it was over…
One of the most enduring memories of my childhood was a time when my mother suffered from a heart infection. As part of her convalescence she was confined to her room. That room was at the end of a long hall, and the door remained closed. I’d stand in the hall and stare at the door, not knowing what was wrong with mom, unable to see her, thinking only the worst. I have no idea how long this lasted, whether it was days or weeks, but I still see that closed door and feel that helplessness that consumed me so young.
Now my daughter deals with the same thing.
I tested positive for Covid and have been very sick. I’ve been confined to my room to protect my family, and am feeling very alone and scared. I have no physical health problems and I’m vaccinated, so even though I am 59 this virus will probably run its course and I will be fine. But right now I feel like shit. I’m feverish, congested, coughing and confused. It’s taking me hours to write this simple post. And I’m in the guest room behind a closed door at the opposite end of the hall from my daughter’s room.
Of course I’ve looked up all I could on Covid and bipolar disorder. The information is overwhelming and contradictory. There is growing evidence that some cases of bipolar disorder have viral causes, so proponents of this theory view the pandemic as a test case toward some conclusion. As it were, there are cases where a Covid infection has triggered a first manic episode and people treated for Covid have been given anti-psychotics.
Bipolar disorder seems to make those with it much more susceptible to almost all physical illness, and people with mental illness have higher rates of coronavirus infection than the general population. At the same time, some psychiatric medications seem to moderate the symptoms of Covid. Responses to the pandemic have led to social isolation and reduced mental health services, which have worsened the condition of many with mental illness. The stress of life during a pandemic has exacerbated the symptoms of many, and all measures of societal mental health, especially the suicide rate, have worsened.
As it does with so much else, bipolar disorder makes dealing with Covid difficult and treacherous, both physically and emotionally. But as it does with so much else, we with bipolar disorder persevere.
Meanwhile, my wife balances work and care for me. Perhaps we need to look closer at the health of those who care for those of us with Covid. And those of us with bipolar disorder. I can’t thank her enough.
And then there is my daughter, at the other end of a long, dark hall. We opened the door, all with masks and distance, last night so she could see me. She’s older than I was when my mother was sick. Still, she cried that my uncle died of Covid last year. We assured her that he had the disease before there were vaccines and he was very old with a lung disease. As sick as I am now, I will recover. So far, through the depths of bipolar disorder and all its comorbidities, I have.
The other day I waited on the step for my wife and daughter to pull up to the curb after school. I had to take the car and go for my PCR test. My daughter stood outside the car and looked in the window. As I buckled the seatbelt she made a heart with her hands and smiled. I will be better in a few days. I will emerge from this room. And that vision of her gesture will long replace any memories I have of a long hall and a closed door.
Help me feel better. Buy a copy of my book, PracticingMental Illness: Meditation, Movement and Meaningful Work to Manage Challenging Moods here.